Whether your goal is to spread the word of some good news about a company, promote a special event, or publicize the news of an executive’s recent promotion, a high-quality, comprehensive media relations campaign can help you achieve your aspirations and lead to a huge sense of accomplishment when you see your news in print, on the Internet, or on television.
There are a few things to keep in mind as you begin your work.
1. Know the news
For starters, you’ll want to know your news inside and out. Nothing can be more frustrating and annoying to a reporter than getting a call or an email from someone who only knows half the story, especially when the reporter starts asking questions that you don’t know how to answer. Not only will this be a waste of time on both ends, but it will discredit you as a future source of information for that reporter.
2. Make contact
Do your research before you begin contacting the media. What reporters would be most interested in your news? Not only will this make things easier on you, as you are most likely to get a positive response from a reporter who covers this particular area, but it will earn you some credibility and will perhaps result in the reporter calling you in the future for other stories.
3. Use the right approach
How do the reporters on your list prefer to be contacted? Remember that reporters are most always working on a deadline, so making a phone call that would ultimately cause that reporter to step away from their work may not be the best idea. A better approach may be to email a general letter and accompanying information, perhaps in the form of a press release, that highlights and simplifies the news you have to share.
4. Make yourself available
When a reporter expresses interest in your news, make yourself and/or your expert sources available. Imagine the frustration that can be felt when, after you pitch a story, the source for the story has gone out of town or is busy in meetings all day. You don’t want to lose your window of opportunity, so know your source’s schedule of availability beforehand so you can coordinate the interview accordingly.
5. Work smartly
Likewise, be sure to get back to the reporter in a timely manner, preferably within the day, even if it is only to say that you are working on the request and will be getting back to him within a specified timeframe. This lets the reporter know that you are actively working on the request and that you have not forgotten about it. If too much time goes by before you get back to that reporter, he may begin work on something else and you may have lost your opportunity.
6. Timing is everything
An important component of any good media relations campaign is timing. If there are several pieces to a story, make sure they are all in place before pitching it. If anything is in doubt, or you do not feel right about something, follow your instinct and resist the urge to pitch the story until everything falls into place. Remember, it is your credibility and reputation on the line.
7. Educate your clients
Remember that media relations is not advertising, though many unfamiliar with the field may confuse the two. Though a paid advertisement is a guaranteed media placement, a story told by a reporter offers much more. Not only is there no cost involved, but a story offers credible sources, elaborated information, and is not constrained to advertisement space. Be sure to educate your client on the differences between the two and the huge payoff that can come from a positive story in the newspaper, on a popular website, or during the evening news.
8. Honesty is the best policy
Finally, as with most things in life, honesty is your best policy. The last thing you want to do is get caught in a lie by a reporter. Not only will it put you in a bad light, but that reporter may have doubts about working with you in the future. Be honest and upfront about everything having to do with the story. Be approachable. If you go above and beyond your typical day-to-day duties to help a reporter, they will remember that effort and likely consider you a valuable source by calling on you in the future.
About the author:
Heather Holtschlag is a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer and PR specialist with special expertise in the health and fitness industries. She is a self-described fitness addict who recently added running to her workout regimen, having completed half marathons and 10K races. Visit her website at www.heatherholtschlagpr.com.
Also by Heather Holtschlag:
1. Full-time Freelance Writing for Full-time Moms